What do pickleball, water meters, and tennis have in common?
As it turns out, COVID-19. That’s how Gulfport’s getting upgrades to all three things.
At the April 5 Gulfport City Council meeting, councilmembers voted to use funds from the federal government’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) – just more than $6.1 million paid over two years (the City already received the first of the two payments) – the most recent COVID-19 relief package. The funds will go towards different public projects, including a citywide water meter upgrade, and new tennis and pickleball courts.
Tennis and Pickleball Courts
Council has set aside federal funds to tear down and rebuild the Chase Park tennis/pickleball courts into separate tennis and pickleball courts. These funds allow the City to create more space for both sports. When completed, Chase Park will have two new tennis courts and two standalone pickleball courts. In addition, the courts will have enhanced lighting.
“There’s going to be LED lighting, all new lighting, fencing… everything’s getting demoed and then replaced,” Public Works Director Tom Nicholls said.
The addition of dedicated pickleball courts means something has to go, so the City will remove the road around the fire pit behind Scout Hall, although the fire pit will remain. Nicholls hopes this will preserve the number of parking spots in the park.
Pickleball aficianados and tennis lovers should have dedicated space by Labor Day.
“This project will be all-inclusive. We will be tearing everything out and rebuilding,” Nicholls said. “We expect to start at the beginning of the month, and it will take roughly four months to complete. With this new construction, courts should last at least 10 years,” he added.
Water meters may not sound as exciting as new tennis courts, but the ARPA money means Gulfport can get better technology and less labor-intensive meters without pinging its tax base.
The new water meters from Neptune Technology Group and water meter boxes and accessories from Core and Main come with an estimated $800,000 price tag.
The new meters will make billing and tracking water usage simpler, allowing workers to record more accurate numbers.
“About 20% of Gulfport already has these meters, “but they’re still drive-by technology,” Nicholls says, meaning the utility workers still must drive by the home to read the meter. With the new system, the meter will upload water usage into the cloud every five minutes.
The upgrade will take between 18 and 24 months, but at the end, utility customers could get an app to help them monitor their water usage.
“Our long-term goal is to allow residents the ability to look at their water usage from their smartphones,” City Manager Jim O’Reilly said.